Your actions, like ripples radiating out from where a tossed stone hits water, affect your entire organization. First you influence your direct reports. They in turn impact their direct reports. And so it goes on down the line until eventually every person in your organization feels, in one way or another, the effects of your behavior and decisions. Although we can all agree that leadership does influence individual performance and organizational effectiveness in this way, defining and measuring that influence can be tricky.
That is why I love Human Synergistics’ Leadership/Impact® tool. This 360-feedback assessment is effective because, unlike other leadership assessment tools, it shows a leader how she is impacting her teams and what kind of a culture she is fostering. And by not judging her as “good” or “bad,” the Leadership/Impact® tool allows her to see ways that she can improve as a leader without feeling offended or defensive.
Through conducting extensive empirical studies Dr. Robert A. Cooke, CEO and Director of Human Synergistics, discovered that a leader will impact his or her organization by using one of the three following approaches:
- Encourage and enable organizational members to approach tasks and interact with others in positive ways that are consistent with personal needs for growth and satisfaction;
- Reinforce and inspire their subordinates (and others with whom they work) to demonstrate a balanced concern for people and tasks, focus on the attainment of both personal and organizational goals, and work to reach those goals through cooperative efforts; and, more specifically
- PROMOTE Achievement-oriented, Self-Actualizing, Humanistic-Encouraging, and Affiliative behaviors throughout the organization.
In contrast to constructive leaders, passive/defensive leaders:
- Compel and/or implicitly require organizational members to interact with one another in self-protective ways;
- Expect and reinforce others around them to prioritize protecting peoples’ feelings at the expense of completing tasks (e.g., withhold negative, yet necessary, feedback), subordinate themselves to the organization (follow rules even when they’re wrong), and play it safe rather than take reasonable risks that could enhance performance; and
- PROMOTE Approval-oriented, Conventional, Dependent, and Avoidance behaviors throughout the organization.
An Aggressive/Defensive leaders…
- Drive others to approach tasks in forceful ways to protect their status and security;
- Reinforce and require their subordinates and peers to emphasize tasks and short-term performance (rather than the interests of people), narrowly pursue their own objectives over those of other members and units, and compete rather than cooperate; and
- PROMOTE Oppositional, Power-oriented, Competitive, and Perfectionistic behaviors throughout the organization.
Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that Dr. Cooke’s studies also found that the majority of leaders who’ve created effective and sustainable organizations employ a Constructive leadership style.
Be constructive. Sounds pretty simple, right? But it’s not. In order for leaders to develop the strategies that lead to a Constructive impact they will often need to work with a coach who can help them employ Prescriptive rather than Restrictive methods of leadership. Put most simply, Prescriptive means demonstrating and communicating the behavior you want to see in your organization rather than focusing on negative behaviors and restrictively telling people what they shouldn’t do.
At Sterling Integrators, we believe that this Prescriptive approach really works, which is why our clients hear more about what good leadership looks like rather than what it doesn’t.